Arts & Entertainment, Features

Jamila Woods brings warmth to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Singer Jamilia Woods graced Boston with reflective lyrics and rhythms from her latest album “LEGACY! LEGACY!” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Thursday. 

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum courtyard. GEENA GRANT/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The show was held in the museum’s Calderwood Hall, a unique space with several tiers of seating. Instead of featuring a raised platform to separate the performer from the crowd, the venue had Woods stand on the floor only a few feet away from the front row, creating an intimate and engaging atmosphere.

The event, titled “Soul Searchin’ with Jamila Woods,” featured promising R&B artist Dalaun as the opening act. Dalaun, who graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2017, charmed the crowd with her effortless vocal runs and range. Throughout her seven-song set, she bounced along with choreographed dance moves and emitted a confident, youthful sass.

Before Woods took the stage, the audience was treated to a 20-minute intermission to wander through the museum and indulge in a food and wine bar. The Gardner is a glorious celebration of horticulture, architecture and art — roaming through its halls after dark was a beautifully haunting experience that accentuated the night’s performances.

The crowd erupted with applause as Woods strutted into the hall wearing an iridescent black outfit that reflected the vibrant colors of the venue’s lights. Supported by drums, guitar and keys, Woods opened her set with the opening track off her latest album, “BETTY,” named after singer Betty Davis.

In fact, each song on “LEGACY! LEGACY!” is named for people of color who’ve inspired  Woods throughout her life and who have served as her heroes. 

“There’s a lot of, ‘I’m a badass because I come from this lineage!’ in these songs,” Woods said in an interview with Dazed

From Zora Neale Hurston, to Miles Davis and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the impact these icons had on Woods and her music shines through the album’s lyrics. 

Between songs, Woods honored her heroes further by playing recordings from memorable interviews or speeches. 

Woods transitioned into “ZORA,” a soft and introspective piece where she sings, “You will never know everything, everything/ I will never know everything, everything.” The song showcased the singer’s silky vocals and included an instrumental section with powerful drums that earned cheers from the crowd.

She then channeled her intensity and passion into “GIOVANNI,” a powerful song performed with spit-fire delivery and a soaring guitar solo, that tackles themes of racial injustice. 

Before Woods played “FRIDA,” she explained that the track was inspired by famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and “the house that she lived in with that dude who need not be mentioned,” which made the audience laugh.

 This joke was in reference to the homes that Kahlo shared with her partner Diego Rivera. The couple lived in what were essentially separate residences, while being connected by a bridge. Woods incorporates this theme of purposeful separation and independence in a relationship into the song, singing “I like you better when you see me less/I like me better when I’m not so stressed.”

Before “EARTHA,” named after the multi-talented performer Eartha Kitt, Woods played a recording from an interview where Kitt said “I fall in love with myself and I want someone to share it with me.” During the song’s bridge, Woods encouraged the audience to sing along with the repeating line “Who’s gonna share my love for me with me?” The crowd joined in eagerly like a choir.

She then treated the crowd to a few hits from her debut album, “HEAVN,” released in 2016. Woods began with “Stellar,” a song with glittery, dreamy instrumentals that complimented her angelic vocals. She continued with the theme of self-love by performing “Holy,” where she repeats “I’m not lonely, I’m alone/ And I’m holy by my own.” 

Throughout her set at the Gardner Museum, Woods delivered a moving, engaging set that seemed to leave the crowd satisfied and refreshed. She encouraged self-love while bringing up challenging themes and soothed with her soft, yet powerful, voice.

More Articles

Comments are closed.